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Health Aff (Millwood). 2012 Apr;31(4):760-9. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2011.0329.

Direct-to-consumer Internet promotion of robotic prostatectomy exhibits varying quality of information.

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State University of New York Downstate College of Medicine, Brooklyn, USA.


Robotic surgery to remove a cancerous prostate has become a popular treatment. Internet marketing of this surgery provides an intriguing case study of direct-to-consumer promotions of medical devices, which are more loosely regulated than pharmaceutical promotions. We investigated whether the claims made in online promotions of robotic prostatectomy were consistent with evidence from comparative effectiveness studies. After performing a search and cross-sectional analysis of websites that mentioned the procedure, we found that many sites claimed benefits that were unsupported by evidence and that 42 percent of the sites failed to mention risks. Most sites were published by hospitals and physicians, which the public may regard as more objective than pages published by manufacturers. Unbalanced information may inappropriately raise patients' expectations. Increasing enforcement and regulation of online promotions may be beyond the capabilities of federal authorities. Thus, the most feasible solution may be for the government and medical societies to promote the production of balanced educational material.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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